In this current age of post-truth, it seemed inevitable that falsehoods about the animation industry would eventually become a problem.

With the release of Frozen 2 this week, American media outlets have crafted a false narrative that the original Frozen film is the highest-grossing film of all-time. This reporting is objectively false. Box office numbers are not open to interpretation — there is no debate that the original Frozen lost its title as the highest-grossing animated film earlier this year to Disney’s animated remake of The Lion King.

And yet, despite there being no controversy over the numbers, many major U.S. media outlets continue to misreport that Frozen is the highest-grossing animated film of all-time.

Ryan Faughnder incorrectly reported a story in the Los Angeles Times:

But it remains to be seen whether the new film can top the long-term performance of the original Frozen, which is the highest-grossing animated movie ever (globally, and not adjusting for inflation).

Anthony D’Alessandro in Deadline also got it wrong:

Again, Frozen 2, in all its glory was self-fulfilling prophesy. The first film is the highest grossing animated movie of all-time at $1.27B, so, duh, the studio was going to make a sequel, which they rarely do for their non-Pixar/Disney type theatrical toons…

Frank Pallotta wrote an inaccurate story for CNN, trying to pass off Incredibles 2 as the biggest opening weekend for an animated film, even though The Lion King broke that record too earlier this year:

Disney had projected a $100 million debut, but after a day of strong sales, the company increased its forecast to $120 million. While short of the high-water mark for animated movies set by Pixar’s Incredibles 2 — another Disney sequel — it would be a bigger debut than the original [Frozen], which made $93 million over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday in 2013.

Sarah Whitten made the same gaffe on CNBC:

If sales and consumer interest remain high, Frozen II could dethrone Incredibles 2 and become the top animated movie opening in North America of all time. But, it will need to earn more than $182.6 million in its first three days in theaters.

A generous reading of these stories is that the people writing these pieces are lazy reporters who haven’t bothered to do basic research. That would be a preferable scenario to the alternative: these journalists know the truth and choose to deliberately misrepresent box office grosses. The latter scenario has turned out be true in at least a few cases.

In an earlier piece on Deadline, D’Alessandro and Nancy Tartaglione, wrote that Frozen 2 would likely “rep a new global opening record for an animated film.” It’s a bizarre claim to make since there hasn’t been a single projection that Frozen 2 will come within even $100 million of The Lion King remake’s $467 million opening weekend. In the sentence that immediately follows, D’Alessandro and Tartaglione admit that the only way their reporting could be true is if they don’t count The Lion King as animated: “I understand that Disney considers Jon Favreau’s CGI reboot of The Lion King to be in the live-action category.”

Similarly, CNBC’s Whitten makes clear that she knows The Lion King is animated, yet continues to report as if it isn’t because “Disney does not consider its recent The Lion King film to be an animated feature.”

Let’s be totally clear here: If a journalist knows The Lion King is an animated film, but they’re writing about it as if it’s not, it’s a failure of journalistic ethics and a deliberate attempt to deceive readers.

A film’s production technique is not a subjective matter that can be modified at will. Films are live action, animation, or hybrid productions, but they cannot be anything a reporter wants it to be to fit a certain narrative. In the case of the recent remake of The Lion King, it has been clearly established that the characters onscreen were generated entirely through animation and that it’s an animated film. There are hundreds of crew members who can attest to this fact.

For now, we’d advise readers to be wary of any reporting about box office records set by Frozen 2 as there is a great deal of misinformation being spread about animated feature box office figures, some of which appears to be deliberate disinformation.

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